I didn’t know how much fun it would be to represent this great association
Well, it’s near the end of 2017 and my term as CAALA’s President. I can honestly say that it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. As the saying goes: “Time flies when you’re having fun.”
Even though I had served on the Executive Committee for five years under some great CAALA Presidents, I wasn’t sure what to expect when it was my turn. I figured it would require a lot of my time and that I had a lot to learn about CAALA and our members. I also knew there were lots of things I hoped to accomplish during my term as CAALA’s President.
What I didn’t know was how much fun it would be to represent this great association, both outside the organization and within. What a pleasure it was to work with the officers, leaders and members who make CAALA great. I also loved connecting with the judges, other bar associations and members of the legal community to help them understand our association and who we represent.
Without question, the success we had this year would not have been possible without the dedication of the wonderful CAALA staff. Getting to know and work with this incredible staff allowed me to truly enjoy this past year as we accomplished some wonderful things together. The following are some highlights.
The President’s year officially begins in January with the CAALA Gala, our Annual Installation & Awards Dinner. CAALA’s Deputy Director Cindy Cantu is responsible for all the details, and she works hard to ensure the Gala represents the incoming President. Knowing my love for music, Cindy had a blockbuster hit with the theme “Here Comes the Fun” and live entertainment from The Fab Four, a remarkable Beatles tribute band.
Like many of you, I grew up a big Dodger fan. The CAALA President plans our annual Board retreat in February, including at times bringing in a keynote speaker. Thanks to the generosity of Pat Farber and some supportive CAALA law firms (Panish Shea & Boyle; Girardi Keese; Greene Broillet & Wheeler; Carpenter Zuckerman & Rowley; Taylor & Ring; Victor George; and my own firm, Shernoff Bidart Echeverria) we were able to bring in Vin Scully! No one in the room will forget their hour with the greatest announcer of all time.
One of my goals for 2017 was to give our members education programs they can’t get anywhere else at no charge. For example, in May, renowned trial lawyer, author and speaker Rick Friedman delivered an inspirational 3-hour program at no charge to CAALA members. What a great morning.
Encouraging civility within the legal community was also one of my goals, and I worked closely with LASC Presiding Judge Dan Buckley and the Court leadership on several outstanding projects and programs.
We created a joint seminar on civility with CAALA, ABOTA-LA, ASCDC and the Court that was extremely successful. The room was full, and on the stage were outstanding judges and trial lawyers from both sides, all speaking about civility within the legal community.
We also were very involved with our three organizations and the Court to launch a Mandatory Settlement Conference program for PI cases to help ease the burden on the Court and its staff. CAALA manages the program and it’s been a huge success. The Court leadership has regularly thanked CAALA publicly for making the MSC program possible.
An important priority for me was to have the first ever CAALA Women Trial Skills Conference. Thanks to a great, hard-working committee led by Liz Hernandez and my law partner, Danica Crittenden, that happened in October. It was an inspirational and exceptional educational conference presented by leading women trial lawyers for CAALA women members. There was no charge for attendees and the feedback has been remarkable. I’m hopeful that it will become a regular CAALA program for many years to come.
The following are some record highlights of 2017 that would not have been possible without the dedication of many CAALA leaders and the staff:
- Membership is at an all-time high, approaching 3,000 attorney members and 4,000 total members;
- CAALA Vegas was the most successful in our history, with more than 2,500 registered attendees (and included a very cool Rock N’ Roll theme);
- Participation at education seminars and webinars are at record levels;
- The List Serves have more subscribers than any in the country;
- Member mixers have outgrown nearly every venue where they’ve been held;
- The new Legal Staff program attracted overflow attendance at every session;
- The Plaintiff Trial Academy graduated its fourth class and many of those graduates are now proving themselves to be among our best young trial attorneys.
I could keep going but these are examples of why it’s been so rewarding to serve as President of this remarkable organization and why I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished.
As I conclude my year, and my last Advocate column, I want to take a moment to thank CAALA’s remarkable staff. CAALA is big in every way, except for the size of our staff. We are the largest, most successful and most respected Trial Lawyer Association in the country, but in terms of numbers, our staff is the smallest, made up of only seven people. I want to personally thank Stuart Zanville (Executive Director), Cindy Cantu (Deputy Director), Bill Smith (Director of Finance and Operations), Kwedi Moore (Affiliate and Sponsorship Manager), Liz Hagan (Membership Director), Margie Ruiz (Membership Administrator), and Martha Ruiz (Office Administrator). No staff anywhere in the country does more than our staff and I thank them all.
As great as the past year has been, the future looks even brighter. CAALA will have an extremely dedicated 2018 President in Mike Arias, along with a fantastic Executive Committee in Shawn McCann (President-Elect), Jeff Rudman (First Vice President), Genie Harrison (Second Vice President), Doug Silverstein (Treasurer), and Minh Nguyen (Secretary). In just a few weeks, CAALA will be moving into a brand-new, state-of-the-art office, headquarters and conference center. For the first time, we will have a customized location to provide our members with the facilities they deserve from the greatest trial lawyer association in the country.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your President.
Ricardo Echeverria is a trial attorney with Shernoff Bidart Echeverria LLP, where he handles both insurance bad-faith and catastrophic personal-injury cases. He is currently the incoming President of CAALA and was named the 2010 CAALA Trial Lawyer of the Year, the 2011 Jennifer Brooks Lawyer of the Year by the Western San Bernardino County Bar Association, and a 2012 Outstanding Trial Lawyer by the Consumer Attorneys of San Diego. He was also a finalist for the CAOC Consumer Attorney of the Year Award in both 2007 and 2009, and is also a member of ABOTA and the American College of Trial Lawyers.
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